Is Corruption a Good Thing? Lessons From Indonesia

Public lecture
Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Friday, February 14, 2014 - 10:00am
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Friday, February 14, 2014 - 10:00am

Presentation at the Center for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery,
Central European University

Friday, February 14, 2014, 10:00 a.m.

Gellner room, Nador street 9

Is Corruption a Good Thing?

Lessons From Indonesia


"Good governance" is the buzzword of the day: everyone just takes for granted that less corruption would translate into more economic growth as well as a healthier body politic. That in turn reduces the likelihood of conflict, according to the conventional wisdom.

Elizabeth Pisani challenges those assumptions, using examples from Indonesia. In some cases, she argues, patronage and the economically inefficient distribution of public money serve as the glue that keeps an otherwise fractious country together. She proposes that more nuanced and less ideological view of "corruption" is needed if countries are to fight graft without undermining peaceful co-existence.

Elizabeth Pisani

Elizabeth Pisani is an incurable analyst. She started her working life reporting on politics and the economy in several Asian country for Reuters and The Economist. Then she turned to epidemiology, researching HIV and risk behaviour in Asia and Africa. Her first book The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS argued that the HIV epidemic reached unnecessarily large proportions because financial, political and institutional interests had bulldozed the facts and common sense.

Pisani is currently working on a book about Indonesia, a complex country that has fascinated and maddened her since she first lived there over two decades ago. She spent 2012 travelling through some of the most forgotten parts of the archipelago, covering 23,000 kilometres by boat, bus and motorbike. She discovered an Indonesia very different from the one imagined by politicians living in the bubble of Jakarta. It is a nation whose many challenges will certainly not be solved by foreign-funded workshops on good governance. More at

Pisani holds an MA in Classical Chinese from Oxford, an MSc in Medical Demography from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, also from LSHTM.